The District of Lake Country is going to ask the Ministry of Highways to investigate whether they can install barriers to separate the north and south lanes of Highway 97 between Lake Country and Kelowna.
The move came after Lake Country fire chief Steve Windsor’s bi-annual report to Lake Country council on Sept. 2. Windsor reported that there was a substantial increase in serious accidents his department has responded to on the highway between Lake Country and Kelowna, pointing to a continued increase in traffic volume as one likely cause.
And Windsor says the installation of no-post cement barriers to separate the north-south lanes could do a lot to reduce serious accidents such as head on crashes.
“(No post barriers) have definitely alleviated a lot of the calls for the new stretch of highway 97,” said Windsor. “We’d like the ministry to look at installing them from Beaver Lake road south to Kelowna. I have experience with the Island highway and the accident call volume on that—especially for head on collisions—decreased hugely when they installed the no post barriers.”
Windsor pointed to the sheer volume of traffic that flows on highway 97 each and every day as one reason for an increase in accident calls his department responded to in the first half of this year.
“At the north end of Lake Country the new highway I think has corrected a lot of the problems we had with volume of traffic but you still have that volume of traffic to the south,” he said. “When you get that volume and you make a mistake there is not much ability to correct yourself.”
Windsor said the no-post barriers do cause some access issues but he says it would be worth it for the Highways Ministry to investigate to see if something can be done to improve safety.
Coun. Penny Gambell said it’s concerning to see so many accidents happening on the local highway adding that the opening of the new highway has changed the location of the accidents happening in Lake Country.
“It just seems like we had a number over the summer and it’s certainly a concern,” said Gambell. “We have the new highway and that seems to have taken care of accidents at the north end of Lake Country. Why is it all of the sudden we are getting these accidents at the south end?”
The increase in motor vehicle accidents as well as more structure fires highlighted the first six months of the year for Lake Country’s fire department.
Windsor said while it was a fairly average start to the year for Lake Country’s protective services department, there were some trends over the first six months of 2014.
“Structure fires were the biggest increase,” said Windsor. “In the first six months of 2013 we had one (structure fire) and at this point in 2014 we have had seven.”
Meanwhile, Windsor said the first six months of the year saw the fire department add to its arsenal of firefighting weapons with the acquisition of a new interface fire engine for Carr’s Landing. That gives the department two engines capable of fighting fires in interface areas where homes are built amongst the forest.
“We’ve had very good success with both engines, in fact one of them was over assisting West Kelowna for three days with their large interface fire,” he said.
Lake Country also received a new boat that has the ability to aid fire crews from the water or work on rescue calls. The regional district-purchased watercraft is better equipped than its predecessor, said Windsor.
“It replaced a 20-year-old boat,” he said. “This one is considerably bigger and a lot more capable in rough water. We’ve used it on a number of occasions to evacuate people or to spot for aircraft that are loading water.”
In total, calls that the Lake Country Fire Department responded to were nearly the same from the previous year with 390 calls in 2014 as compared to 383 during the same period in 2013.